In response to your editorial "The New Labor Force: Jailbirds?" (Oct. 15):
I agree that Proposition 139 should be defeated. However, a great deal could be done to rectify our penal system. Our prisoners do not have to work. Because of ancient legislation in favor of industry and labor, our prisoners cannot compete with private business. It is time for this to be changed. In some states the prisoners produce much of the furniture, supplies, clothing, food and maintenance of the plant for their own and public agency use. They even supply the labor to construct new prisons and facilities. All of this at great saving to the taxpayers.
As the editorial points out, rehabilitation, given the monies available, does not work. We presently do not punish to any degree. Most of the convicts are locked up and pump iron, watch TV, engage in gang activities and learn from fellow convicts how to continue their crime careers upon their usually early release.
It is time for the legislatures on a national, state and county level to overhaul the system completely rather than to pass stop-gap measures.